Stopping prejudice before it starts


Program aims at parents, teachers


By the time they enter preschool, many children already exhibit negative feelings that can develop into prejudice, research shows. Stopping those feelings before they start is the goal of A World of Difference Institute, the anti-bias branch of the Anti-Defamation League. "Biases are learned, and they can be unlearned," says Barbara Belcore, regional early childhood project coordinator for A World Of Difference Institute in Chicago. The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization that fights discrimination, is working with the producers of Sesame Street to offer parents and preschool teachers free materials for hosting their own anti-bias workshops. The workshops are a "preventative measure," Belcore says, designed to "stop the seeds of prejudice from taking root in children." At no cost to families, Belcore and a group of trained facilitators will meet with groups of at least 15 parents at the location of their choice—libraries are popular because they often rent space for free. Parents get a lesson in respecting differences, as well as the tools for teaching those skills to their kids. "Our workshops are entirely hands-on," says Belcore.  "We open people up to their own biases and show them how they affect children." Facilitators use role playing and group discussion to educate parents about bias and bigotry. They provide workshop participants with additional resources, such as books and videos, and stress the importance of teaching kids about differences in race, ethnicity, culture, language, gender, class, physical ability and sexual orientation. Since the program launched in 2001, the group has run 63 teacher and 31 parent workshops. Parents interested in hosting their own workshop should contact Barbara Belcore at (312) 782-5080, ext. 224, or [email protected] Or call to reserve a spot at one of these public workshops: • Step-By-Step Early Childhood PTA of Bartlett will host a parent workshop from 7-9 p.m. March 12 at the Bartlett Public Library, 800 S. Barlett Rd. Call (630) 289-0012 for details. • The Family Network of Highland Park will host an educators workshop from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. March 10 and a parent workshop from 7-9 p.m. April 9. Both sessions will be at 330 Laurel Ave. in Highland Park. Call (847) 433-0377 for details.


-- Matt Alderton


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